You’ve probably heard about solar panel tiles and roofs but there is a new innovation that is taking the world by storm. Solar Panel Roads are now here to stay. As the name indicates, these roads feature solar panels that are designed to generate electricity.
The world’s first solar road was recently constructed in a small village in Normandy, France. The 1 km road in Tourouvre-au-Perche is covered with approximately 2,800 sq. m of power-generating panels. The project was opened by the French Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal.
The purpose of the solar route is to generate sufficient electricity to power streetlights. However, this project was initiated at a cost, with a price tag of $5.2 million. The solar panels are mounted with silicone-based resin that is sturdy enough to withstand the weight of heavy cars and passing vehicles. The road was a success and performed as expected.
Experts were quite pleased with the results and claimed it produced better outcomes than expected. Royal now wishes to see solar roads installed over 1,000 kilometers of French Highway.
Despite the expected positive results, experts agree the solar panels are less effective than the ones that are used on angled rooftops and sloping areas. These panels are also pricier than traditional solar panels used in homes. It should also be noted that the village is not known for its overabundance of sunshine.
The region’s capital, Caen only enjoys 44 days of heavy sunshine. Colas, the company behind this innovative creation is hoping to reduce costs in the future. Colas have initiated around 1000 solar road projects around the world which are still in progress.
Critics are not too happy with the use of public money and say they don’t know for sure if the project is worth the investment. According to Colas, the material used for making the solar panels is tough enough to withstand traffic, including HGVs. Colas is not the only solar panel road company in town. Solar Roadway is another corporation that is committed to building roads using solar panels.
The company has installed a few panels at Route 66 Welcome Center in Missouri in 2015. However, the company is also facing a number of issues including insoluble cost problems similar to Colas and the French.
However, this is not the first time a country tried to construct a solar panel road. In 2014, officials opened a solar-powered cycling path in Netherlands. Despite several teething issues, the cycling path has been able to generate 3,000 kWh of electricity, which is sufficient to power an average family’s home for a year.
However, since the route cannot be adjusted to face the sun, the panels produce 30% less energy than that of fixed solar panels installed on rooftops. After only 6 months of installation, the SolaRoad was able to attract more than 150,000 riders.
Despite positive results, the cycling path had its share of issues due to poor weather conditions. Heavy rain caused the top portion of the panels to break, after which the path was shut down. Fortunately, engineers were able to come up a material that would withstand poor weather conditions.
Companies, such as Colas and Solar Roadway, are working towards ways to reduce production costs. Apart from financial problems, solar panel roads are a great invention and are likely to gain popularity in the future.